Come, take a seat in his chair and have a relaxing shave with a vengeful blade that cuts a little too close.
UNC Pauper Players is bringing Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” the story of the murderous barber seeking revenge, to UNC starting Friday. The show follows Todd on his quest to kill Judge Turpin, who sent him away and took his wife. Todd joins Mrs. Lovett, an eccentric woman who bakes Todd’s victims into her meat pies, in executing his evil plot.
See The Show
Time: 7 p.m. Friday through Monday
Location: Historic Playmakers Theatre
Doug Pass, director and senior communication studies major, said this show is huge in every way — the blood, set and talent. But it hasn’t come without equally big challenges.
“You have all these great ideas in your head, then you realize, ‘Wait a minute, where do the bodies go when we kill them?’” Pass said. “Things that are simple in your head turn out to be very complicated, very time-consuming and difficult in reality.”
Pass said planning for the large amount of blood was another of the challenges he encountered in this production and one of the mysteries he hopes audiences appreciate.
“If a performer is around blood, there have been considerations with their costume, their blocking, what part of the set they’re on,” he said. “I don’t know if we can reveal the secret to the fake blood or if it’s even fake. There are definitely lots of jars of blood backstage.”
Lochlan Belford, a freshman playing Sweeney Todd, didn’t seem very daunted by the gore; rather, he said he’s most worried about his voice and the level of emotion he has to portray while immersed in Todd’s maniacal character.
“The thing about Sweeney is he is very relatable, at least in his motivations — not necessarily in his actions,” Belford said. “He’s very tragic — you see he has lost his entire life and he’s just trying to claw his way back. It’s easy to relate to the things behind it and to understand why he would do it and then just remember what’s driving him.”
Richie Walter, a senior music major and the show’s music director, said the music enriches the entire plot. His favorite scene is during a song called “Pretty Women,” where Sweeney is finally getting the chance to shave the judge.
“They sing this duet while he is doing this act of shaving him, and we know what he wants to do, and it just has this tension combined with this gorgeous music, which makes it such a striking moment in the show,” Walter said.
Pauper has hidden a live orchestra at the back of the stage during the production. That and the set were two technical difficulties Andrew Jones, assistant director and a senior journalism major, encountered while trying to install the production into the small Historic Playmakers Theatre.
Jones said the set is similar to the original production, where there is a central cube on the stage that spins, and the faces of the cube are different for respective settings of the story. But because of the building’s historic nature, the crew couldn’t drill into the floor to create this movement. Instead, Jones said they had to get hundreds of rolling castor spheres to put under the centerpiece of the set. And that’s not the only piece of the set that’s over the top.
“Under the stage we have a couple of huge speakers and we do these sound effects for the dramatic parts where the bass comes in and the whole place shakes, and it’s so intense,” Jones said.
Overall, he said the set, combined with the live music and talented cast, has made the show a real spectacle that goes further than the gore.
“It’s a classic you’re-rooting-for-the-antagonist plot,” he said. “It’s about revenge, it’s about humanity, it’s about love — in many different ways — forbidden love, taboo love with the judge and Johanna and impossible love between those who are alive and those who are not alive, and misinterpreted love in the case of Mrs. Lovett towards Sweeney.”
As what sounded like an organ echoed throughout Historic Playmakers, Jones said the show is going to be an amazing one — as a result of the space and the cast’s dedication.
“The murders are going to be great,” he said. “We have some really cool blood effects and this is an amazing show for the space in particular, its history and the architecture.”
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